Aug
24

Florida Keys Family Frolic at Cheeca

Cheeca Resort and Spa Florida KeysIf you’re interested in a tropical family vacation within the continental US, with easy access from Miami/Fort Lauderdale airport, the luxurious Cheeca Lodge & Spa (http://www.cheeca.com/) on the quaint island of Islamorada, in the Florida Keys is worth checking out. This beachfront resort has beautifully manicured grounds, villa style rooms with private balconies, with a good blend of amenities that a high-end resort has to offer, as well as facilities and activities that the whole family can enjoy.

You can dine outside on the beach or indoors at one of the three fine restaurants, sit under the shaded cabanas near the heated pool, pamper yourself at the spa, enjoy a game of tennis or squeeze in a nine hole 3-par golf game, work out in the state of the art fitness center, soak up the sun while lying out along the 1,100 foot palm-lined private beach, take a leisurely bike ride around the property or splash in the ocean.

Cheeca has hosted generations of families, Hollywood celebrities, Washington elite, and several United States Presidents over its 60 years. The ambience is casual and intimate, with attentive but never intrusive service. Sprinkled throughout 27 acres of lush gardens winding through shimmering pools and cascading waterfalls, the spacious West-Indies-style rooms, suites, and bungalows offer stunning ocean, island or golf course views. Rooms are beautiful and appointed with every luxury – from fine linens, extravagant marble bathrooms, and screened-in porches to wireless Internet access and sleek plasma screen televisions.

To add to the family friendly aspects of this hotel we love that all the Villa Suites have the option of interconnecting with a 2 queen room and have a fully equipped kitchen, accommodating up to 8 people. Babysitting is available and the resorts kids club, Camp Cheeca provides  loads of fun and supervised entertainment for children 5-12 years. Activities include fishing off the pier; arts and crafts; scavenger hunts; lagoon swimming/snorkeling; group games and beach exploration. The Florida Keys are home to North America’s only living coral barrier reef- the 3rd largest reef in the world. Home to more than 500 species of fish and nearly 50 varieties of living coral. Older kids can experience kayaking, sailing, snorkeling and windsurfing and they have so many places to hang out and explore.

We were recently at Cheeca for a wedding, “sans enfant”, and can’t wait to get back there with the whole family. It’s a gem.

Mar
29

Holiday Packages with Kids- Fiji’s Jean Michael Cousteau Resort

Holiday Packages with Kids- All Inclusive Fiji

Best Luxury Kids Club Resort

Fiji is one of the world’s best destinations for families who to find great holiday packages with kids well catered for, leaving you nothing to do but relax in luxury.  Great holiday packages with kids included are certainly out there, but rarely does one tick all the boxes for adults and kids alike! Fiji generally offers loads of great child and family friendly activities as well as the opportunity for plenty of time off for the parents with nanny services and great kids clubs. Fijians are well known for their love of children, making the Fijian Islands the perfect place for a family holiday kids of all ages- from infant to teenager. Our top pick for a luxury family friendly resort is the  multi award winning, all inclusive Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort.

There are not many luxurious Fijian all inclusive family friendly hotels, so this resort is a find. In fact, apart from the major hotel chains, tend to be the luxury resorts tend to be child free. The Jean Michel Cousteau Resort is on the island of Vanua Levu overlooking picturesque Savu Savu Bay.  To give your family an extra special treat, you can also fly into the resort’s jetty via seaplane, or take a short scenic plane ride of about 45 mins to Savu Savu. Families are met at the airport by hotels staff with the cool drinks and warm smiles. We were impressed from the second we arrived at the resort, as we were greeted in traditional Fijian style with a chorus of hotel staff, and nannies for our 3 young children- complimentary for kids under 6. The children were given a resort tour, while we checked in. This really got the holiday off to a great start , as the kids couldn’t wait to go back to join in the fun at the kids club.

Holiday Packages with Kids Club Facilities

Fijian kids clubs are renouned for there great programs and the Bula Kids Club at Jean-Michel Cousteau is no exception. It runs from 8am until 9pm daily with two programs, targeted at 0-5 years and 6-12. Kids under 6 are cared for by a personal nanny. The program offers great flexibility for young children who can be cared for by their personal nanny in the company of their parents, or the nanny can care for them one-on-one in the kids club and enjoy the activities with the other children.   There are plenty of crafts, cooking, movie nights, singing and a range of added value programs for the kids to do. Many of the resorts unique kids club activities are designed to be fun and educational through fun and engaging activities, their mission is to help kids learn about their world, and how to conserve and protect the environment. The resident marine biologist takes the children on conservation walks through the mangroves and out on the glass bottom boat. Some of the other popular activities at the kids club include- 2 age appropriate supervised water slides, scuba and snorkelling lessons in the pool, the trampoline, frog catching and races are a popular hit amongst boys of all ages. I have seen teenage boys crying on departure- even the older kids really love this paradise.

Whether your kids are participating in the kids club activities or not, there is plenty to do as a family. Some of the other interesting activities are the Medicinal Plant Walk with resident “witch doctor”-  Niumaia, guided snorkelling with the resident marine biologist, SCUBA, deep sea fishing, spa, a day or picnic on the private island,  sunset cruises, touring the local market and villages by car or bike and attending local church services- all really wonderful experiences.

The all inclusive rates include 3 lavish meals per day in either smorgasbord or al la carte presentation. Kids can either dine with you, or at the kids club.  The food is impressive and fresh, with produce often picked from the resorts own veggie garden which is a great experience for the kids to visit.

1 & 2 bedroom beachfront and garden bure style accommodation are beautiful and spacious with comfortable beds. No TV’s or even phones here, but really, this was actually wonderfully liberating for all of us.  It is astounding to see how well the Fijian grapevine works when you are looking for someone, particularly tracking down your kids. The mini bar was handy, particularly when we travel with infants. A one-bedroom bure sleeps a family of 4, with rollaways and cots available, whereas the 2 bedroom bures can fit a family of 4 or 5 comfortably.  The Balinese inspired Private Villa, with it’s private pool,  kitchen, is also a wonderful option for families. Beautifully appointed this villa has accommodated the likes of Meg Ryan. We had such a great time with three nannies and three kids in the villa that the kids begged to stay- forever. There is a massive master bed suite, with the dayroom/second bedroom being close but not adjoining which is great for families with older more independent children, but may not be ideal for those with infants and toddlers.

One of the best features of the resort is that it is relatively large property with only 25 bures and one Villa. Many people tend to stay for 7 nights, which gives you an opportunity to meet people from all around the world. You can keep to yourself, or as we have done, meet lots of families from USA, Australia and Europe. The small resort atmosphere makes it an infectiously friendly place which is particularly great for holidays for single parents with kids. Many families make this destination a yearly event, coming back to Jean Michelle Cousteau Resort, year after year to meet up. Apparently we are not the only family who loves this place.

So if you are after a great holiday package with the kids so happy they don’t want to leave, certainly check this one out.

Mar
14

The Ayana Resort and Spa, Jimbaran Bay Bali.

Ever had that thought on the way to the airport “I wish we could stay in paradise just another couple of days”

Well last night that was exactly my thought and thanks to the syncronicity of a Javanese volcano miles away, we’re staying a while longer. This time returning to an old favourite- the Ayana Hotel and Spa (formally the Ritz Carlton Resort) Jimbaran Bay Bali.

After a surprise notice at the airport, and a brief encounter with Jetstar’s complimentary “5 star hotel”, the Goodway Hotel in Nusa Dua– NOT!! Greatly in need of renovation this property is tired and well past it’s prime– our suite was spacious but mouldy, unclean (even the sheets were stained) and had insufficient beds (the absolute final straw). Given the onslaught of unexpected guests,we thought it quicker to move to another hotel than wait for another bed with tired and muddled children. And thanks to great travel insurance with our AMEX card, we had options.

The Ayana aptly named meaning ‘place of refuge’ in Sanskrit, is by contrast a very well maintained property with 8 swimming pools, various impressive restaurants and world class day spa and gym. Interconnecting Rooms are spacious and well appointed. This stay we are blessed with a palatial 2 bedroom villa ( 2001). This is heaven. It is huge, with several dining and enertainment areas, 2 rose petal filled baths, outdoor shower, its own sprawling lawn for the kids to run with day beds, and an infinity plunge pool. The villa is also close to the kids’ club, kids’ pool, restaurants and overlooks one of two the wedding chapels. This morning we awakened to singing birds, gently flowing water and a breathtaking views of the glistening Indian Ocean. I’m sitting by the kids pool watching the kids make friends and enjoy the supervised water slides, meanwhile the villas appointed butler is keeping us abreast of Jetstars latest news.

Breakfast served at Padi is sumptuous and vast- a feast that could last for hours! We ended up taking a “doggy bag” packed lovingly by the staff for the kids keeping them fed for hours. The Villa’s guests also have their own breakfast retreat at Dava which is also open for an elegant white table cloth dinner and live entertainment. There is no shortage of dining experiences at this resort. From cafe’s, Japanese Teppanyaki to dinner theatre experiences with a view, this resort has it all. The kids menus are particularly noteworthy with a vast choice and many healthy food options like homestyle chicken soup and grills with steamed vegetables.

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The kids club and children’s activity centre caters for 2-10 year olds and provides very flexible options at reasonable prices- check in for an hour, half or whole day or a short visit with a parent or babysitter. A wide range of activities to inspires all ages, and if nothing else the trampoline is a great hit. Children under 4 need to be accompanied by a parent of babysitter. We have used the baby sitting service and found the careers to be fun, kind, and responsible. In fact all the staff resort wide are wonderful with the children, paying them special attention and catering to their anticipated needs.

The Ayana’s spa complex is very impressive complete with cold plunge pool, steam and sauna rooms, aerobics and yoga studio, Aquatonic Seawater and HydroTherapy Pools, and an extensive range of treatments. The gym is excellent with onsite trainer to assist with weights and equipment. The only tip here is to bring cool training wear as the gym is warm.

Put simply, an outstanding family focused resort.


Ayana Resort and Spa at Google Maps:

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